Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Who's Coming With Me? My Race Schedule for 2012

(The "village" in the center of Mont Tremblant)

The 2011 season is in the books and it looks like the major races planned for next year are already pretty much set. I have been planning my 2012 season over the past few weeks to get an idea of time commitments, vacation scheduling, and "life events". The other advantage of registering for the races ahead of time is that there is a clear goal to train towards. 2012 is shaping up to be a great year in terms of travel with races planned in New Orleans, Mont Tremblant (Quebec), Cambridge (Maryland), and Portland (Oregon).

Monday, November 28, 2011

Deals: Fully Waterproof GPS Watch for $123

Over the past few years, I've really seen the rise of personal fitness devices and along with it, a gradual decrease in pricing that is really starting to make it affordable to own something like a GPS watch to help optimize your training and log your workouts. Timex recently released the Ironman Run Trainer which is targeted as a direct competitor to the Garmin 210 watch. Based upon functionality and price point, this watch will be more than adequate for 90% of the people I know. The value of the watch goes further if you get the heart rate strap so you can measure the intensity of your workouts to see if you are pushing it enough on an interval workout or a CrossFit WOD. The best part is that you can get it for a reasonable price of $123 through a combination of sales and rebates.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Race Report: Philadelphia Marathon 2012

My 2011 season came to a close with the completion of the Philly marathon. I didn't intend to do any marathons this year but somehow ended up signing up for both the Baltimore Marathon and Philadelphia marathon which are within a month of each other. I agreed to do the Philly Marathon so that my brother and I could race each other on a relatively flat course. The outcome of the race was not exactly how I wanted due to the lingering plantar fasciitis issues. In a nutshell, I felt great the first half of the race (1:41 half marathon split) but struggled through the second half when the planter fasciitis flared up (4:08 finish). Unfortunately, other circumstances at the marathon gave me perspective that there are more important things to dwell on than an undesirable race result. I originally wrote a detailed post with race preparation, nutrition, mile splits, heart rate charts, etc. I decided to scrap all of that this morning and do something different.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Reflective Wear Set-Up for Night Time Running


Figuring out ideal training conditions is always a trade-off depending on what season of the year you are in. During the Fall season, the weather is more conducive to running outside from a temperature perspective but the major disadvantage is the lack of day light to train in. At this point, you are pretty much forced to run in the dark before work or after work if you prefer to run outside.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Earn It to Own It and Other Race Apparel Etiquette


I've been on the fence about whether or not I'll go ahead and gut out running the Philadelphia Marathon this weekend due to my ongoing struggle with Plantar Fasciitis. It's frustrating knowing that I have the aerobic capacity and strength to run a marathon but am limited by an injury. In conversation with friends about dropping out and eating the $125 registration fee, someone mentioned that at least I would get a nice long sleeve tech tee out of it. Therein lies an interesting point. I don't think I would pick up and wear a shirt for a race I didn't do. Coincidentally, I saw this list of informal race shirt etiquette rules posted on the forums on slowtwitch.com. Personally, I’ve never worn a shirt or apparel for a race that I did not run or complete and I don't think I'd make an exception for the upcoming Philly Marathon. In a way, I feel like it would be disrespectful to the actual participants that were in the race. Earn it to own it.


Friday, November 11, 2011

The Most Incredible Home Cooked Steaks Courtesy of Sous-Vide



"Whoa...is that a blow torch cooking the steak?" Yes, that's a blow torch but it is only for "finishing" the steak. To further your confusion, the steak was cooked in a crock pot of water for about six hours and the finished product is hands down the best home-cooked steak I've ever had. All of this is courtesy to the Sous-Vide method which cooks the meat evenly throughout, not overcook the outside, and retain more of the food juices. This kind of cooking used to be limited to high end gourmet restaurants but now there are ways for us non-professionals to enjoy foods cooked Sous-Vide.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Guest Post: A Review of the Catalyst Cleanse Diet



I've been working to catch up on a number of new posts but alas, life commitments and training gets in the way to getting the goods out in a timely manner.The target is for the posts to be coming out in the next couple of weeks including reviews of a few zero drops shoes I tried this summer, a review of the new Zeo Mobile sleep machine, winter cycling workout ideas, and a couple of fitness books/movie reviews. In the meantime, we have a guest post from my good friend Gina who is a fellow fitness enthusiast. To give some color on Gina's background, she currently is an active CrossFitter at CrossFit Manayunk and also a member of my Co-Ed football team. Gina has also done a number of road races including 5K's, 10 milers, and half marathons. She is targeting to do her first marathon next year at the Portland Marathon.

One of the growing trends in the consumer health industry has been cleanse diets. In a nutshell, the goals of the different cleanses are to detoxify your body, assist with weight loss, and potentially clear up your complexion. At the end of the program, it also  provides an opportunity to "re-start" your habits and replacing them with good ones. There's all kinds of cleanse products out there, but Gina specifically tried the Catalyst Cleanse. She wrote up a fantastic review of it on Facebook and allowed me to share her experiences on my blog to give you all a bit more insight into what the diet entails. Check out the full review after the jump.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ideal Sleep, Drunk Sleep, and Fatigued Sleep as Graphed By The Zeo Sleep Machine

I’ve been using the Zeo Sleep Monitor for close to a year now and have not been doing as much analysis as I would like with this kind of data other than seeing how my nightly sleep scores compare to the average for my age group demographic (for those interested the 30 – 40 age group average is 80). For a little more detail on this, you can check out an earlier post in which I compared my average sleep to the national average. While sifting through the daily reports, I remembered asking myself what exactly does different types of sleep look like. What does an ideal night of sleep look like? Is drunk sleep really sleep? How well do you sleep after a workout that really zaps you? Well, due to some diligent tracking, I’m able to shed a little bit of light to those questions through some very un-scientific data gathering leveraging the Zeo Sleep Monitor.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Head to Head Hydration Tablet Fizz-Off: Nuun vs Hammer Nutrition vs GU

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It seems like hydration tablets have really taken off over the past couple of years as a convenient way to refresh on electrolytes without the added calories/sugars. Hydration tablets are basically an effervescent similar to an Alka Seltzer where you drop the tab into water and it quickly dissolve into a drink. They are usually lightly flavored and loaded with electrolytes that are absorbed quickly. Outside of being a low calorie electrolyte replenishment source, the tabs come in a small tube that is ultra portable and easier than lugging bottles of other sports drinks around. Many of the major nutrition vendors like GU, Hammer Nutrition, and Nuun have a hydration tablet product but which one is the best of the bunch? Let’s find out!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Race Report: Nation’s Triathlon – September 11, 2011

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The 2011 season has been a different one for me in that I had one triathlon race in Sea Isle over Memorial Day and then no other triathlons or major races until close to the fall. I often compared it to having one of those classes in college where you basically studied all semester and then had one big test at the end that was pass or fail. There was a lot of pressure to be self-disciplined enough to make sure you were ready. Much like college, I really had to focus on getting the work in with balancing numerous social activities. Training through the summer has never been ideal as all vacations/events are always planned around quality workouts and making sure they happen. This summer would especially be hard with a couple of weddings (including mine) and associated commitments (bachelor parties).

The Nation’s Tri would be a good indicator of my fitness level and whether or not I’ve been training properly through the summer in preparation of the races I had lined up for the Fall:

  • September 11 – Nation’s Tri (1500m swim/40k bike/10k run)
  • Oct 2 – Poconos Half Ironman (1.2 mile swim/56 mile bike/13.1 mile run)
  • Oct 15 – Baltimore Marathon
  • Nov 20 – Philadelphia Marathon

One of the takeaways from my Ironman experience last November was to develop a plan and stick to it, both in training and during races. The Nation’s Tri started out as a warm-up for the Poconos Half Ironman. There wasn’t supposed to be much of a plan to the race other than seeing where my training was at and making the right adaptations before the Half Ironman. Everything changed when one of my triathlon buddies told me that Nation’s Tri was a regional qualifier for the age group National Championships in Burlington, VT. Basically, everyone who finished in the top third of their age group got a slot for the big show. I looked at the times that qualified the prior year and saw I was pretty close to being in the top third. I then made it my goal to tweak my training a bit to make Nation’s Tri an “A” race and make a run at qualifying.

Pre-Race Condition

Going into the race, I felt like I was in pretty good shape overall. In contrast to Ironman training, I have really balanced out the training between swim/bike/run. I think my run made the biggest gains basically because I ignored it the most last year which resulted in a pretty crappy marathon time at the Ironman. A good indicator of run fitness was doing the Livestrong 10K toward the end of August where I did a 44:43 (7:13 pace). Although I was feeling race ready, I did run into an obstacle with nagging feet/arch issues, specifically plantar fasciitis. Plantar Fasciitis is not something that goes away quickly and you basically have to manage the pain the best you can.

Race Plan

I’m not going to sugar coat it but the rainy weather in the DC area and subsequent cancellation of the swim and not replacing it with a 5K was definitely a swing in my favor since the swim is my weakest leg among the three. Having just a bike and run to plan for was a lot more predictable. The game plan going in was pretty simple. On the bike, the goal was to average between 200 to 220 watts for the first 20 miles and then take it up to 240 watts max up until the close. On the run, the goal was to stick around 7:20 min/mile pace for the first 4 miles then go as hard as I could to finish. Ideally, the splits would be:

T1 – 1:30
Bike – 1:05
40K T2 – 1:30
10K Run – 45:00
Total Time – 1:53

Nutrition

With the Olympic distance, I did have to put some sort of nutrition plan in place, although it didn’t have to be as intense as the Ironman nutrition plan. I basically made sure to drink 20oz of water with one Nuun Tablet during the bike in addition to consuming one flask of EFS Liquid Shot to fuel the run. On the run itself, depending on how how it was, I had the option to take a cup of gatorade at Mile 1 depending on how I felt.

Bike – Actual

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The bike course wasn’t very difficult with a few rolling hills and some short, steep climbs. The majority of it was an out and back on a long parkway.Due to the time trial start, there was a ton of drafting occurring among the riders but I didn’t fall into any of the chase packs because I was too paranoid about picking up a penalty. The guy with the fastest overall race time was docked a 6:00 penalty and fell all the way outside of the Top 20. I ended up averaging about 208 watts which was in range of what I wanted to do but I felt I could’ve pushed harder to be closer to 220 watts and get closer to averaging 24mph. The good news was that I kept my heart rate relatively low, averaging around 152 bpm (low Z2) and went into the run feeling pretty fresh.

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Bike Actuals:

Total Time: 1:03:50
Avg Speed: 23.3 mph
Avg Watts: 208
Avg HR: 152 bpm
Bike Rank: 394/3879

Run – Actual

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I started out the run “pacing by feel” to see what my speed was at a steady, comfortably hard pace. To my surprise, it was sub 7:00. As you can see from the photo above, everything felt pretty good at this point. I was able to hold to a good tempo pace up until around 26:00 in which was close to the 4-mile point.

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The run itself was a single loop on a fairly flat, fast course. The race organizers did a great job putting aid stations at every mile. At mile one, I ended up taking a gel packet and two gatorades due to an unexpected mishap on the bike (more on that later). As the run leg progressed, I caught a bunch of racers in my age group which helped my cause to finish in the top third. Toward the end, with about 300 meters or so, I made one last surge to sprint down as many people as I could. You can see that on the graph where my heart rate jumped toward the end from 186bpm to 199bpm within 90 seconds.

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Run Actuals:

Total Time: 41:51
Avg Pace: 6:45min/mile
Avg HR: 178 bpm
Bike Rank: 246/3879

Lessons Learned

Looking back, there were a few mis-haps/things I should improve on for the future:

  • Heading out on the bike, I lost my entire flask of LiquidShot EFS so I wasn’t able to fuel for the run via the bike as I wanted. Instead, I just took a gel packet and a couple of gatorades at the first aid station and was fine. I’ll have to re-think securing the flask on my bike and just putting it into my back pocket/bento box.
  • I didn’t put speed laces on the new running shoes. I easily lost 30-45 seconds in T2 because of this
  • Under pacing. I the target on the bike was to be around 220 watts and actual was 208. I played it rather conservative and probably lost some time. The surge on the run was also a bit too quick which makes me think I could’ve hammered the last 2 miles a little harder.
  • The plantar fasciitis really started to flare the last 2 miles of the race. I really need to get this under control or I’m going to be toast at the Half Ironman.

Overall

When I finished and received my unofficial results receipt, I had placed 48 which didn’t mean much unless I knew how many guys were in my age group. That number didn’t come until later in the afternoon, 407, which meant I made it into the top 12% and punched a ticket to Age Group Nationals! I really have to attribute the success of this race to simulating race conditions in the few weeks leading up to the race and putting together a realistic plan to stick to during the race. I can’t say enough how beneficial it was to know the different data points and formulating race targets around it. Post-race, the body felt fine except for the plantar fasciitis issues in BOTH feet. The right one is a lot worse than the left one. The trick now is managing the pain and getting enough quality runs in before the month ends when the Half Ironman hits on Oct 2 and a marathon hits two weeks later.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Yurbuds: The Ideal Headphones for Working Out?

yurbuds
If I think about frequent, multiple purchases related to my working out hobby, headphones is easily the item at the top of the list. I’ve been through every type you can think of such as stock iPod headphones, stock Sansa headphones, Sony sport buds, Sony Over the Ear sport buds, JVC buds, Sennheiser Over the Ear, Sennheiser In Ear Buds, etc. None of them are in use anymore either because they crapped out due to sweat, not fitting right or I was immensely annoyed with how often they would pop out of my ears while working out. The last point is a biggie. Nothing takes you out of your element more than having to deal with headphones constantly popping out of your ear while you are working out.
After many years and many headphones, I think I’ve come across the perfect pair, Yurbuds.

“Little” Intervals Bike Workout

While the cat was busy with another day of stretching out on the couch, I had to get in a bike workout before heading to Erie for the weekend.

With the Nation’s Tri coming up in basically a week, I’ve been focusing on doing more speed/race pace specific workouts to get the body (and legs) primed for the race day. Its mostly been a lot of interval and tempo work of which some I’ve been able to get through and some being messy. For today’s bike workout, I decided to try an interval workout developed by Dr. Johnathan Little and Martin Gibala from McMaster’s University Dept of Kinesiology. In a nutshell, the actual workout lasts 27 minutes and is 12 intervals of 60 seconds at 95% of VO2 MAX and then 75 seconds of low intensity. The result of this low volume, high-intensity traning (HIT) are performance gains similar to high volume endurance training at a steady state if done 3 times a week. If you are a physiology geek (and I say that in a good way), you can check out the full abstract that was printed in The Journal of Physiology on January 25, 2010 <<link. Conventional wisdom for endurance training is volume, lots of volume, and more of it when you’ve had enough but with the kind of schedule I have and time constraints, if there’s a way to train smarter and optimize training time, I’m all for it. In fact, I’m currently on a marathon training program that only has me running only three days a week.

I set-up shop in the Torture Chamber with the usual set-up:

  • Kestrel Tri Bike with CycleOps Powertap hooked into the Fluid2 Bike Trainer
  • Garmin 310XT Monitor to track time and watts
  • Motorola Xoom Tablet with My Interval Timer Pro app to keep track of interval time
  • TV with Rdio app for tunes (Deadmau5 – For Lack of a Better Name)
  • Big Fan
  • Water bottle of Nuun

The tricky part before the workout was figuring out what exactly 95% of my VO2MAX really meant. I’ve never done a VO2MAX test formally but have done other tests like Heart Rate Lactate Threshold and an FTP test on the bike. Luckily, I found an FTP wattage chart which translated different FTP watt ranges to intensity levels. I knew I had an FTP of 260 watts from a test I did back in April so that translated to having to hit between 275 – 322 watts to be around VO2MAX. It wasn’t exact but at least I knew the numbers I had to hit on my bike.

The workout itself wasn’t that bad. I felt like it stretched me but not to the point where I felt like I could not finish the workout after any of the intervals. After the first 8, I decided to challenge myself a bit more and bumped my range for the last 4 intervals to be between 320 – 340 watts. The resulting power ranges/heart rate stats can be seen below:

The red line correlates to my heart rate with the green line representing my power (in watts). The black line is my Threshold Power (FTP) @ 260watts. Its cool to see the how the different power levels affect my heart rate and the rise/drops during the high intensity/low intensity portions. Data like this is useful to me to see how consistent I was with my intervals and whether or not I pushed it hard enough or too hard during the intervals. You can see how the last four intervals are higher than the first eight in both Power and corresponding Heart Rate.

I’m going to try to incorporate the Little Interval more into my workouts and see if it does improve my cycling fitness as I gear up for Ironman Poconos on October 2nd. That being said, time to finish packing up and head out to Erie for a weekend of spending time with family and friends and of course, more swim/bike/run training. Have a great Labor Day Weekend!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Favorite Triathlon Gear for Under $20

My friends getting into triathlons often bounce questions off of me on types of gear they should buy and train with. It all comes down to budget as you can spend a few dollars to a few grand on gear. That being said, there are a few essential items I use that are very budget friendly and really help during training and races. With Easter quickly approaching, the following also make great Easter Basket fillers for your favorite multi-sport athlete.
Halo 2 head band ($10.83 Amazon)
halo2
This isn’t your dad’s favorite sweatband from the 80’s. It’s made with a high absorbant. Also there is a “sweat guard” strip to help block sweat from dripping onto your eyes. During the summer, its slim profile fits perfectly under a bike helmet to absorb sweat during long rides.

Clean Bottle ($9.05 Amazon)
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One of my biggest gripes with water bottles is how gunked up they get after awhile because of how hard it is to clean the bottom. The Clean Bottle solves this dilemma. This 100% BPA-Free bottle has a unique twist off top and bottom which makes it a breeze to clean in a dishwasher. Like the Blender Bottle, it is a simple yet practical idea.

Fuelbelt Fuelbox ($11.31 Amazon)
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Simple enough, this storage bag sits on the top tube of the frame right behind the handlebar stem so you have quicker access to things you might need on bike ride. It comes down to preference but I liked having the bag right in front of me rather than have to reach back to a bag attached under the seat.

Lock laces (~$7 Amazon)
locklaces
I remember the first time I went with bungee laces instead of regular shoe laces on my running shoes. Outside of speed advantages putting on your running shoes in transition for a triathlon, I feel like the bungee laces provide a better fit, more convenience, and not having to worry about laces becoming undone during a race. After trying a few different brands, I’ve settled on Lock Laces as my favorites.

Nuun Hydration Tablets ($6.95 for one)
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I was always weary of drinking Gatorade or Powerade because of how sugary/syrupy it tasted. During intense workouts or training during the heat, I really needed the electrolytes to stay hydrated. I came across Nuun Hydration Tablets. Each tube has 12 tablets that dissolve into 16oz of water to make a very low calorie (5) no carb hydration drink. The container is very portable and cost effective if you think about how much twelve 20-oz bottle of Gatorade would cost. Nuun also happens to be my drink of choice when I need to re-hydrate the morning after a long night.

RoadID ($19.95 RoadID.com)
roadid
I remember hearing about the unfortunate story a few years ago about a female runner who had a freak accident running and died from a tree branch falling on her. It took nearly a day to figure out who she was and contact loved ones. This was enough for me to get a RoadID and wear everytime I go running outside.

Crank Brothers Speed Lever ($5.85 Amazon)
speedlever
A basic skill for any cyclist is to be able to change a flat tire. This tool makes it a ridiculously easy and fast process. I was lucky to not have more than one flat last year so I didn’t have to use the speed levers on the fly but I did use it a bunch of times switching off and on trainer tires. Trust me when I say this lever makes it 100% easier.

BodyGlide ($12.99 Amazon)
bodyglide
The name says it all. Apply this stuff in areas where you might chafe during long workouts. In addition, this stuff works awesome when you apply it around your ankle and wrist areas to quickly get out of a wetsuit. Recently, I’ve swabbed it onto hotspots on my foot that are prone to blistering to prevent them from occurring on longer runs.
injinji Performance Toe Socks ($10 Amazon)
injinji
Speaking of blisters, these socks have individual sleeves for each toe which helps to protect against blisters. It takes getting used to at first, but after a few runs and lack of blisters, I’m a fan. These socks also work well with the Vibram Five Finger shoes.

Compression Socks ($16.95 + $2.99 shipping)
http://www.ameswalker.com/flaac20mmats.html
compression sock
Compression socks are all the rage for long distance racing but the prices on them can get pretty ridiculous. I came across this pair that offers all the benefits at half the cost of some of other brands.

Aqua Sphere Kaiman Swim Goggle ($15 Amazon)
aqua sphere
I’ve always had problems with goggles leaking in water or goggles that didn’t fit right and gave me “raccoon eyes” after longer swims. I came across these goggles on a triathlon forum, tried them, and haven’t worn any other goggles since. The fit is great and I’ve never had issues with water leaking in.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Making Homemade Pho from Scratch

Pho
When I was growing up, I was a real brat eating certain Vietnamese dishes that my Mom would make. I pretty much hated seafood and anything spicy. My Mom did a great job mixing in traditional American dinners and American’ized versions of some Vietnamese dishes so that I would eat it. One dish (or soup) that I would eat without question is Pho. It was weekend morning tradition for the family and I loved twirling the rice noodles and playfully eating it like spaghetti strands. Since moving away for college, my Mom always makes it a point to make Pho when I visit Erie and outside of that, I usually hit up one of the Pho places in South Philadelphia. For those unfamiliar, Pho is Vietnamese rice noodle soup that is often served with any combination of cuts of thinly sliced sirloin, beef flank, tripe, and Vietnamese meat balls. The distinct beef broth is what really gives Pho its unique taste. Pho is also known as a Vietnamese super food for curing a hangover with its mix of rice noodles and a salty/fatty broth that is perfect after a long night out.
A couple of weeks ago, my parents came and visited Philly and since there isn’t much of a Vietnamese presence in Erie, we went to the Vietnamese supermarket to pick-up a few things they needed. While we were there, I got the random idea to learn to cook Vietnamese, or at least the stuff I knew I would like and want to eat. Pho was the easy one to try first. I can’t read Vietnamese so it was a big help that my Mom was there to guide me toward the ingredients that I needed to buy. In terms of the recipe, I did a quick Google search and used this Pho recipe as my main guide.
The first step was to do an initial boil of the bone marrow to boil off excess fat and impurities that would be removed. It pretty much collects as a dirty foam that is scooped off with a spoon and thrown away. After about 5 minutes or so, the bone marrow is then removed and put into another pot of boiling water to prepare the broth.
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While the bone marrow is boiling in the water, part of the flavor in the broth comes from charred onions and ginger. I basically just cut each in half and put it over the stove flames to get the right char which releases the aroma when soaked in the broth. The onion, ginger, sugar, and fish sauce is then added to the broth which then cooks at a steady simmer for an hour and a half.
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After simmering for an hour and half, the special spices are added. It essentially a blend of star anise and cloves with some other stuff in a spice bag. Rather than buying these ingredients separately and making my own spice bag, my Mom pointed me toward a pre-packaged bag with all the spices in it and ready to be dropped into the broth. These spices soak/seep in the broth for about 30 minutes and really gives the Pho broth its unique aromatic qualities.
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While the spices soak, I used this time to cut up the garnishes. These usually include bean sprouts, cilantro, Thai chilies, and Asian basil but I don’t like any of that stuff so for my own dish, I went with thinly sliced sirloin, sliced onions, cut up chives, and lime slices.
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After soaking for 30-minutes, the spice bag is removed and the Pho dish is ready to be “assembled.” The noodles used in Pho are thin rice noodles that are placed into boiling water for about 4-5 minutes. The rice noodles are then removed and placed into the serving bowl. The next step is preference. Some folks like to boil the sliced sirloin in the broth first to cook it a little before adding it to the bowl with the noodles and adding the beef broth to finish cooking. The other option is to put the raw sirloin with the onions/chives and adding the beef broth once it has hit a rolling boil to cook the meat as soon as the broth is added to the bowl of rice noodles.
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Once the hot beef broth is added, it instantly cooks the meat and the result is fresh, hot bowl of delicious Pho!
Pho

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hacking My Sleep with the Zeo Sleep Coaching Device

Zeo-Sleep-Monitor
Over the past couple of months, I have been experimenting with tracking my sleep through a few gadgets I came across. The first one I tried out was the Sleeptracker Elite which I ended up not liking and selling off on eBay. The other device I played around with is the Zeo Sleep machine. In a nut shell, it is an alarm clock on steroids that is wirelessly linked to a headband with sensors that can track your brainwaves (yes, YOUR BRAINWAVES!). You put the headband on while you are sleeping and it records your sleep patterns. The data is then uploaded to a website via an SD Card where the data can be analyzed. Another key feature of the Zeo is Smart Wake whereby you set a time you want to get up like a regular alarm clock but you also set a range before the wake up time, usually 15 – 20 minutes. The Zeo will then detect if you are in a light sleep phase and wake you up during this optimal time. Many times, when people are suddenly awoken from a deep sleep/REM phase, they will feel groggy which ends up affecting the rest of their day. Smart Wake helps to ensure you wake up feeling refreshed. Rather than recreate the wheel on a review on the rest of the Zeo features, one of my favorite blogs to read, dcrainmaker.com, put up a pretty thorough write-up on the Zeo that you can check out.
The typical sleeping pattern is going through cycles of light sleep, deep sleep, and REM. One of the main selling points for me was getting better insight into how much quality sleep I was receiving each night in addition to how much actual sleep I was getting. It is great to understand your sleeping patterns but ultimately, you want to be able to improve how you sleep. The Zeo coaches you through this process with a 7 Step Sleep Fitness Program. After collecting baseline data on your sleeping patterns that is uploaded to the Zeo website, Zeo sends you daily emails on what you should be doing to improve your sleeping habits. After going through the first step, here’s what my starting point looks like. One major thing to point out is that the nights I selected were typical week nights since weekends are generally staying up later than usual and sleeping in.
Baseline Period
12/29/10 - 02/10/11
Nights of Data Collected
15
Top 3 Goals I Wanted to Improve with the Zeo
  1. Get more restorative sleep
  2. Wake up more easily in the morning
  3. Feel better in the morning
ZQ and your sleep phases
This section presents your sleep phases over the course of your baseline, and shows you how they compare to typical sleep statistics for 30-40 year-olds.
[side note: it feels really weird seeing myself in the 30 – 40 age bracket]
ZQ
A summary of how you slept based on Total Z, Restorative sleep, and Disrupted sleep.
My Average: 72
Range: 58 – 91
Other 30-40yr Olds Average: 80
Range: 63 - 96
Total Z
How long you were actually asleep during the night.
My Average: 6:42
Range: 5:30 - 8:32
Other 30-40yr Olds  Average: 7:05
Range: 6:15 - 7:55
Note: National Institutes of Health recommends that adults sleep 7-9 hours each night, regardless of age
Time in Wake
The length of time you were awake after having fallen asleep. Zeo does not record awakenings lasting less than 2 minutes.
Average: 0:05
Range: 0:01 - 0:15
Time in REM
The length of time you spent in REM sleep - a phase important for its contribution to overall mental health, mood, and the ability to learn and retain new information.
My Average: 1:39
Range: 0:58 - 2:24
Other 30-40yr Olds  Average: 1:31
Range: 1:04 - 1:58
Time in Light
The length of time you spent in Light sleep - a phase that usually accounts for the majority of the night and is important for getting more total sleep.
My Average: 4:23
Range: 3:42 - 5:26
Other 30-40yr Olds Average: 4:26
Range: 3:28 - 5:35
Time in Deep
The length of time you spent in Deep sleep - a phase important for feeling restored and refreshed.
My Average: 0:41
Range: 0:30 - 1:01
Other 30-40yr Olds Average: 1:09
Range: 0:35 - 1:44
Baseline and wake-up statistics
This section shows basic information about when you go to bed and wake up in the morning. The last row shows how you feel you slept over the course of your baseline period.
Time to Z
The time from when you put your headband on to when you fall asleep and stay asleep.
Average: 0:20
Range: 0:01 - 1:07
Bedtime
The time you try to fall asleep.
Typical: 10:58 pm
Range: 9:41 pm - 1:15 am
Rise Time
The time you wake up.
Typical: 5:27 am
Range: 5:10 am - 7:35 am
Sleep Schedule Consistency
The number of nights in this step that you went to bed or got up within a 40 minute window.
Bedtime: 8 of 15 nights
Rise Time: 12 of 15 nights
+Zzz Presses
The number of times you press the snooze button each morning.
Average: 0
Range: 0 - 0
Morning Feel (scale of 1 – 5)
The way you perceive you slept when you wake up in the morning.
Average: 3
Range: 2 - 4
Based on the data above, there is a lot of room for improvement. My goal is to start Step 2 next week and report back progress as I go through the program. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spending Time at the Annual Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas

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I like to consider myself the adventurous type and always willing to check out/try new things for the experience of it. Back in early February, I was in Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Coincidentally, the Adult Entertainment Expo was also going on. I was debating if it was worth the $80 to check out but the curiosity inside me won out and I went.
Have you ever wondered what goes on at a porn convention? Here’s my first (and probably last) view of the things you will see. All PG-13 suitable.

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Apparently it was a down year for the Porn industry and in talking to people who went previous years, this year’s convention was smaller than usual but it was still pretty huge.

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Tons and tons of fetish booths. The two above were some of the more stranger ones.

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Back in the day, I always told my guy friends that having nice sheets was important in a bachelor pad. The Porn Convention also agrees from a “work” perspective.

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It wouldn’t be a porn convention without cheesy movie parodies!

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The Pink Cross, because working in the porn industry has its risks too if you know what I mean.

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This booth seemed out of place except for the female manning the booth.

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Obviously, there were a bunch of porn stars in attendance for autograph sessions. Some of the lines was upward of an hour to get an autograph and take a picture with the actress. I am definitely out of the loop on who the current popular porn stars are. The only two I know are Sasha Gray and Jenna Jamison.

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Contrary to popular belief, there were females in attendance. I’d say about 3 to 1 ratio male to female

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It wouldn’t be a porn convention without cult-superstar Ron Jeremy!

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Everyone is a comedian. . . .

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Finally, attending the porn convention can be long and tiring day. . .